After a whirlwind of Roman-based topics in this week, we have yet another Romano-British discovery at hand. This time around the scope pertains to long lost Roman roads that cut through the scenic countryside of northern Britain. Interestingly enough, these lost roads were found with aid of modern laser scanning technology. Better known as LiDAR (light detection and ranging), this remote sensing technology in question is used for mapping specific areas by projecting laser that permeates through vegetation. As a result, by gauging the pattern of the bouncing laser beam, the experts can determine the three-dimensional terrain of the ground ‘leaving no stones unturned’.
To that end, U.K.’s Environment Agency has successfully mapped more than 72 percent surface of England. And while much of the compiled data is used for logistical planning, including emergency flood relief lines, the agency had made 11 TB worth of data public in the Survey Open Data website. Some parts of the massive online ambit have tickled the fancy of many an archaeologist and researcher. David Ratledge, a 70-year-old retired road engineer, is one among them – and for years he has been researching the Roman road network that connected the northern region of England.
These lines of communication were originally established by the Romans after a sequence of events that led to a local Celtic revolt in 69 AD. Britain’s then governor, Quintus Petilius Cerialis started off the proceedings of conquering the northern part of England by securing the supply lines and building roads that connected strategic forts with towns. But unfortunately, while few of this ancient ‘highways’ remain untarnished, most have been overtaken by farmlands and encroaching development projects in our modern era.
But as it turns out, the LiDAR technology has inadvertently aided in discovering many of these 2,000 years old lost roads. For example, Ratledge was able to locate an 11-mile (17 km) long road between Ribchester and Lancaster, a strategic line of communication that was previously wrongly estimated by earlier archaeologists. Similarly, archaeologists Hugh Toller and Bryn Gethin, have been able to detected four Roman roads, with one treading the course from a Roman fort at Low Borrowbridge, near Penrith, to Kirkby Thore (in Cumbria), which had a Roman cavalry camp.
Now interestingly, this is not exactly the first time that LiDAR technology has been used in the realm of archaeology. In that regard, the nigh legendary City of the Monkey God in Honduras was successfully located only after aerial mapping. More recently, researchers were also able to identify a massive spiral structure, supposedly built from sand, inside the Angkor Wat complex. This structure alone measured 1,500 m × 600 m (about 0.93 mile x 1,970 ft) in area – which is equivalent to a whopping 167 football fields!